11.25.2010

11.24.10 Reviews (Marvel Books)

Uncanny X-Force #2 (Marvel): If feels like it’s been a long time since the first issue; is this bi-monthly or something? I must have missed the memo. The continuity is a little wonky; Warren’s pretty busy right now over in Uncanny X-Men, being one of the point persons in crisis mode, yet here he is on the moon(?). In any case, I think Jerome Opena was born to draw a book like this. His lean dark figures move with a grainy lithe appeal through the visceral action. Not only does he nail the overall tone, but there are so many individual sequences that pop. He’s able to ape the art styles of the Kirby era, the Cockrum era, the period around X-Men #200 when Magneto joined, and even the Morrison/Quitely aesthetic. After that lead in, he shows off the Batcave, err… “Cavern-X,” which is an Easter Egg Hunt revealing Sunfire and Magneto’s helmets, the encased uniforms of Rachel, Havok, and Kitty, and it’s just like the damn Batcave meets the JLA Trophy Room for the X-Men! Loved it! Rick Remender brings his “A” game to the table as he crafts this high stakes game to bring down Apocalypse. There’s the tension of the crash sequence on the moon. There’s the crazy cool and original incarnations of The Four Horsemen, the general spotlighting of Psylocke as a character, pop culturally aware nods to Star Wars (“Goldenrod!”), and Warren Ellis inspired lines like “flash Darwinism.” Remender’s character selection allows him clever manipulation of lines, so that Deadpool can mug to the camera, wink to the audience, and say self-aware stuff like “Do it anyway – for dramatic effect.” This is the new X-book to beat right now. It’s the reason I can move my dollars away from Uncanny X-Men, and support this title instead. It accomplishes everything it intends to. It’s basically flawless. Grade A+.

Invincible Iron Man #32 (Marvel): I think I finally realized the strategy that Matt Fraction is using to write his two marquee titles right now, and why I’m warming to one and not the other. Invincible Iron Man allows him to use the undercurrent of modern tech paranoia and drop lines like “bit torrent as offensive strategy.” It kinda’ sounds like Warren Ellis. So, SAT analogy time: If Fraction is to Iron Man as Warren Ellis is to Iron Man, then Fraction is to X-Men as… (wait for it) Chris Claremont is to X-Men. It’s that type of human melodrama blended with contemporary social issues. And while it’s what fueled the infamous Claremont/Byrne run, if you go back and read those stories today they’re not terribly engaging. In fact, visuals aside, they’re pretty dated and hoary sounding, regardless of how charged they were in their time. So… I think that’s why I’m not hooked by Uncanny X-Men in the same way I’m hooked by Invincible Iron Man. Moving on, there’s tons of action here! I knew I was enjoying this book because I got sucked in and forgot that I was reviewing. I made it through almost the entire book before coming up for air, looking down, and finding I hadn’t written a single word. I was just reading for the sheer enjoyment of it. I got lost. That rarely happens to me any more. Fraction nails Tony as the brilliant, arrogant, smart-ass tactician who can step outside himself to see the big picture, and process multiple threads of complex information simultaneously, even under duress. As a surprise, there’s a back-up/interlude sequence featuring art by Jamie McKelvie! Pretty similar to the back-up Warren Ellis wrote over on Osborn very recently. It was grand. Somebody get this guy his own ongoing book already! Grade A.

Uncanny X-Men #530 (Marvel): Sometimes I think I keep buying this book just so that I can mock it, and that’s something I should really stop doing. I really do like the characters, and I keep waiting for it to be as good as Matt Fraction is on Iron Man, but it ain’t happening. One of the big reasons for that is the art. Greg Land’s figures are still overly posed, overly photo-referenced, and overly cheesecake, just for the sake of itself, never in service to the story. Emma looks exactly like Allison does, and if you didn’t have their clothes to differentiate them, you couldn’t tell them apart visually. I also don’t like his long-haired rendition of “Surfer Scott” much either. Fraction opens with a nice bit of writing during Emma’s monologue, but then he derails her out of character with that pseudo-dumb-blonde shopping routine, which Scott would see right through. Fraction is trying to make this run a contemporary social treatise by injecting a realistic portrayal of several timely social issues, this time a mutant virus pandemic. That part is cool, but the rest doesn’t quite coalesce. I like the idea of the quarantined X-Men being functionally out of service, while the off-island team (Emma, Allison, Northstar, Pixie, Warren, etc.) are the fail safe incident command team. Storm is brought in to assumably be a field team leader, Warren acts as the PR spokesperson (even though in a previous issue he was shown being horrible at this and needing the aid of a PR firm – mysteriously absent here while he’s miraculously re-characterized), which leaves Emma as… something? On top of that, there’s a really dud villain roaming around Chinatown. I think it’s an interesting idea to recreate the original team, but it’s not visually that compelling, and this whole pill-popping-mutant-manifestation story has been done before. Grade B.

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